Incumbent Representative Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07) and Republican challenger state Del. Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper) took part in their first debate Tuesday night, discussing a wide array of ongoing issues on the national and state levels.
The forum was moderated by Washington Week Managing Editor and a national political reporter for The Washington Post, Robert Costa, lasting a little less than an hour.
Some of the primary and relevant topics debated by the candidates were on health care, the coronavirus pandemic and national security threats.
On the topic of health care, the discussion immediately focused on protections for people with pre-existing conditions and the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
“If we’re really serious about making sure that we have access to affordable and quality healthcare, there is one way and one way only to do it,” Freitas said. “You have to increase the supply of the doctors, the nurses, the clinics, the hospital and the specialists, but it is Democrat regulations that are standing in the way of doing that.”
Freitas also called claims that he did not want to support those with pre-existing conditions “absurd.”
Spanberger rebutted that “the ACA is the program, is the law of the land, that protects people with pre-existing conditions.”
The freshman congresswoman then stated Medicaid expansion extended health care to thousands of Virginians in the 7th district and helped hospitals in rural areas.
Costa’s then asked the candidates about their position on abortion, a contentious, hotbed topic for many Americans.
Spanberger answered the question with a simple response, saying “Roe v. Wade is settled law. It is settled law and that is what I support.” She also added that politicians should not insert themselves into the decision making that takes place between a woman and her health care provider.
Freitas asserted that there should be more options for women to consider than just abortion and that he wants “to foster a society where we encourage life, where we welcome life into this country and where we provide the resources to mothers that they desperately need so that they can choose life.”
Next, the candidates were asked two questions all relating to the coronavirus pandemic. The first was if President Donald Trump should listen more closely to health experts in Washington D.C.
“Whenever we’re looking at a government response to something as significant as a pandemic, of course we need to listen to health experts,” Freitas responded. “We also need to listen to economists, public policy experts and [legislators] because we need a comprehensive approach in order to deal with COVID.”
Additionally, Freitas mentioned examples of models that would allow businesses to be opened responsibly while effectively responding to COVID and questioned whether Spanberger believes it’s necessary to go into another national lockdown at this point.
In her answer Spanberger first brought up the country’s coronavirus death toll and unemployment numbers, she then moved on to calling for stronger leadership from the White House and a coordinated approach to stopping the virus.
“It is incredibly important that we be able to deliver the PPE and the testing supplies in order to get this virus under control, because the way that we will open our economy fully and completely and bring back our consumer confidence is by ensuring that we have beaten this virus,” Spanberger said.
The second question on COVID asked the candidates what they would tell the next president, either Trump or Biden, to make a priority for the pandemic response in 2021.
Spanberger doubled down arguing that getting the virus under control should be the highest priority and highlighted legislation she sponsored to get President Trump to use the Defense Production Act to deploy personal protective equipment and testing supplies.
Freitas offered two ideas: Creating a specific task force to facilitate better coordination between federal, state and local governments to make sure proper resources are being allocated to those in need, and allowing the economy to safely and responsibly reopen.
Spanberger and Freitas were also asked if they thought Confederate monuments should stay up or be removed, an issue that had gripped many parts of Virginia the past four months.
Freitas said that he has voted against a blanket removal of all the statues and that contextualization or putting up more statues of prominent civil rights leaders was a better approach, while Spanberger said that the Confederate monuments should be removed and military bases who are named after Confederate generals should be replaced with American heroes.
When asked what the country’s biggest national security threat was, both candidates spoke about the dangers from countries such as China, Iran, Russia and North Korea, but differed on how to bolster national security.
Spanberger argued for strong leadership standing up to dictators and using strong international partnerships and alliances, while Freitas argued the need to re-prioritize defense spending to address specific threats from those countries and to bring home U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
One of the only topics Freitas and Spanberger agreed on was infrastructure specifically prioritizing brining adequate broadband to rural communities, a problem people in Central and Southwest Virginia have struggled with since the pandemic shifted many jobs and schools online.
With 13 days left until the November 3 general elections, the Cook Political Report considers the race for Virginia’s 7th congressional district as leaning Democrat, but with a partisan voting index of Republican plus six.
– – –